Building personal relationships, friendships key to learning about diverse cultures

Published by adviser, Author: Rebecca Marcucci - Rocket Contributor, Date: February 17, 2012

A man once told our nation that his children would be raised to judge an individual not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This man, of course, was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a proud advocate of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Many people across the nation are currently celebrating Black History Month, which is a remembrance for those who have strived for equal rights and also as a celebration of diverse culture in the African American community.

According to senior health services administration major and president of Building Bridges, Mychael Lee, 23, the U.S., including Slippery Rock, is diverse and thriving in everyday racial interactions.

“I like to see people coming together,” Lee said. “I like walking into Boozel and seeing a blending and mixing of cultural interactions. The Slippery Rock environment has changed a lot since I first came here as a freshman. I’m now starting to notice a greater melting pot among students.”

Lee explained how Building Bridges aims at tearing down the walls of racial hindrances and how it also can help to aid students with acceptance of diversity while stepping out of everyday interactions. He said these interactions would help in teaching students something new along the way.

Often times students may find themselves wanting to know more about a certain culture or race, according to Lee. He added that ignorance or a fear of insulting someone’s cultural identity can sometimes hinder individuals.

“I would just say not to worry about it and instead get to know the person first,” he said. “Then once you build that trust and understanding with them, there will be more of a willingness to share their culture with you.”

Lee explained how to go about getting to know someone better on campus through social interactions and experiences.

“I wouldn’t meet you and immediately be inclined to ask you, ‘So what is Caucasian culture like?'” he said. “People aren’t usually comfortable in disclosing that information in the first meeting. I would instead ask, ‘How are you?’ and get to know you for your personality and work toward building that friendship with you.”

Lee explained what brings people to Building Bridges specifically and curiosities he’s noticed on campus with student interactions.

“Most people may or may not know about other races when they come to Building Bridges,” he said. “But they show a desire to learn more. And the relationships between club members and students on campus can turn out to be prettystrong.”

Senior criminal justice major and member of the Theta Delta Sigma co-ed fraternity and multicultural society on campus, Justin McQueen, 21, said he has noticed many racial interactions and blending of cultures, especially in his fraternity.

“We are a co-ed fraternity and we accept everyone of different cultures,” McQueen said. “We strive for a diverse group.”

McQueen explained how Slippery Rock, as well as the rest of the nation, is making advances toward a more culturally sound environment.

“We just need to keep an open mind,” McQueen said. “We’re not all brought up in the same culture, but I think we’re making a lot of strides toward ethnicity and unity. Sometimes our differences and beliefs can be the things that set us apart, but from it we can learn to respect one another and unite together.”

Junior accounting and finance major David Vrazia, 23, explained his findings of diversity at SRU and how his interactions have affected his way of life.

“I’m from the Congo,” Vrazia said. “I’m an international student, so I don’t know much about Black History Month. But I am willing to learn about it and I find it to be very enriching toward our many cultural differences.”

Vrazia described what he noticed around campus in his interactions with others in the Slippery Rock community.

“There’s only 2 percent diversity here at Slippery Rock,” Vrazia said. “I didn’t know that until I became a CA here. But I think we work well with what we have. We find ourselves having more in common than we think with someone who might look different than us.”

While he wasn’t alive in the time of Dr. Martin Luther King, Vrazia said watching and listening to King talk during his peaceful civil rights protests personally left an impact on his life.

“I saw movies with Martin Luther King talking about segregation,” Vrazia said. “We may have skin color differences, but I think we can still find similarities in our hearts and I think that’s what Martin Luther King was talking about.”


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